Thursday, March 27, 2008

Diaper Watch – Day 7

MINNIE: Mickey! You smell like crap!

MICKEY: Oh, ya? What’s the name of your French perfume – L'enfant terrible Poopee?


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Diaper Watch – Day 5

Miller Street, in the vicinity of the railroad crossing.

What would Walt Disney say? Who’s been Mickey Mousing around with their garbage?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Newspaper Regards Pedestrians As Second Class

The Press-Republican newspaper gives vehicle owners first class attention. But if you’re a pedestrian, tough luck, keep walking.

It’s obviously the PR is car centric. Back in November when winter was hitting, the PR ran an editorial complaining about pedestrians who press crosswalk buttons but don’t wait for the WALK sign. This action added an extra 15-30 seconds for a driver ready to hit the gas the instant the green light popped into view. These impatient pedestrians were “Jeered” by the PR editor. (Cheers & Jeers -- 11/5/07)

Is a quarter- or half-minute such an eternity for a driver sitting in the comfort of his climate-controlled car? Imagine 15 or 30 extra seconds standing outside in the elements, resisting wind chill, pelting snow or icy rain. Besides appropriate clothing, pedestrians aren’t sheltered from the weather like a privileged driver inside his toasty warm box. It’s understandable that a pedestrian doesn’t wait for the damn WALK sign; it takes so long because motor, not foot, traffic is given priority.

Then the PR ran another “Jeer” on its editorial page railing against people who walk in the middle of the aisle between parking rows at shopping centers. These people were obstructing the traffic flow. (Cheers & Jeers -- 12/17/08)

Try walking along near the parked cars and see what happens. Most drivers pull in when they arrive, then back out when they leave. That creates blind spots. A driver backing up is less likely to see you in a corner if you’re too close to his car. Also, increased distance from a car gives the walker more time to get out of the way if the driver is inattentive.

Recently the PR went on about potholes in the city. (“Veterans Lane is worst in city for potholes” -- 3/11/08) But what about pedestrians who walk in the street because the sidewalks are crap? They also have to deal with deep, water-filled potholes. If their shoes aren’t waterproof like car tires, well, too bad.

And then there’s the sidewalks layered thick with ice. A pedestrian has to tread slowly and carefully or slip and break something. (That something isn’t a bumper or taillight).

If a driver doesn’t like potholes, then drive slower. His travel time will still be a lot shorter than getting around on foot.

The pampered editors of the Press-Republican should leave their cars at home and walk to work for a while. Such a decision would save gas, help the environment. And, more importantly, it would show what real people have to deal with.

It takes a lot longer than an extra 15-30 seconds to walk on icy sidewalks like this one.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ode To Springtime Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh, so Ethereal! She marches in March, yet lethargically. Eternally exalted in images of…

…ice glazed sidewalks lying in wait to break limbs of the unwary…

…empty potted meat can, bacteria frozen for now, mired in storm drain muck…

…a resplendent still life – plastic bottle, pink sponge, rotten apples, and soiled diapers…

…and Her most magnificent crown, canine brown spot atop a snowbank.

What rough beast slouches towards bedpan?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


A review of once hot topics that have grown cold. Taking a look before they recede too far in the public’s collective mind, slipping down forever into the memory hole.

TOPIC: Former Mayor Dan Stewart and certain credit card purchases with municipal funds during his service to the City of Plattsburgh.

DETAILS: An audit by the State Comptroller's Office reviewing a period from January 2005 to September 2006 indicated a lack of sufficient documentation by Stewart. Stewart had until February 1st to respond to Mayor Kasprzak’s inquiry, providing receipts for around $10,000 worth of purchases. Obviously that deadline has passed. Nothing has been reported.

QUESTION: Maybe a public report by April 1st?

TOPIC: The unmaterialized hotel by the lake.

DETAILS: Everyone had been waiting for hotel developer James Monahan of Monahan Development to move forward on the construction of a waterfront hotel-conference complex. Last year Mayor Kasprak decided the Syracuse developer had more than enough time to kick off the project. After all, the city two years ago had installed a parking lot on the site. The deal with Monahan was terminated back in October.

In a newspaper article (9/26/07) Mayor Kasprzak stated that four other local developers were interested in the project. But nothing has been heard lately. The parking lot sits there, snow swept and lonely.

QUESTION: Did Mayor Kasprzak confuse four local developers with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

The Original “Think Green” City

Created by Plattsburgh resident Sally Booth, this scaled rendition of the Emerald City of Oz is on display in the children’s room at the Public Library.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fox 44: Only The News That Fits

David Wood is disappointed. A promise was broken.

David is a sales clerk at the Cornerstone Bookshop in Plattsburgh. Recently a reporter from a local TV station, WFFF Channel 44 in Vermont, interviewed him. Channel 44 is affiliated with the Fox television network.

The reporter, Ben Kennedy, was covering a story about downtown businesses, whether or not they were seeing a particularly slow time with the cold weather and the high price of gasoline.

According to David Wood, he mentioned during the videotaping that he didn’t want his quotes to be taken out of context. The Fox 44 reporter, said David, promised that wouldn’t happen.

But what appeared on TV that night didn’t reflect David’s actual POV. He had been miscontexted.

During the interview David stated that business was pretty good at the bookshop. As for the problem with high gas prices, some customers were making fewer trips but were buying more books each visit, stocking up. Ergo, fewer visits didn’t mean lower overall sales.

The national Fox TV news service proclaims that it’s “Fair and Balanced.” That means that all sides of a story will be heard. One assumes that the local Fox affiliate subscribes to that ideal.

But with TV news, when you have to meet a deadline, when you’re going on air in a few hours, it’s easier to stay with a preconceived slant and make the information you gathered fit it.

When the story was presented on Fox 44, the slant was apparent right from the beginning. The studio anchorwoman opened the story:

“A college hockey game is drawing thousands to Plattsburgh tonight. But come Monday, it’ll be the same sad story for business owners downtown.”

Fox 44 went live to reporter Ben Kennedy in Plattsburgh who continued to reinforce the slant that all downtown businesses were suffering. First up was a video clip with a restaurant owner who said he had been seeing fewer and fewer customers.

Next was the video segment with David Wood at the Cornerstone Bookshop. The reporter in a voice over stated that not only restaurants were seeing a drop in business; a bookstore was also being affected.

If one paid strict attention during the broadcast, it’s apparent that David’s quote didn’t exactly fit the doom and gloom theme. His comment was presented, fewer visits but larger sales per visit.

But when watching a broadcast, comments come and go quickly. Blink your ears and you’ll miss the subtlety. Fortunately I have a copy of the story that can be replayed as needed.

From studying playbacks it’s obvious the voice over leading in to David’s quote obscures the issue: “David Wood at the Cornerstone Bookshop hasn’t seen as many sales this year.”

In actuality, David stated that compared to last year’s slow time, sales were pretty good. But that quote didn’t make the cut. And the one that did was tainted by the slant.

Zip-zip-zip – images and sounds fly by and what was said in one context now fits a different one.

The Fox News Channel has another slogan: “We report. You decide.”

Maybe the slogan of the local affiliate should be: “We slant. You buy it.”

[Note for any conflict of interest critics: David Wood is a friend. I try my best not to allow a friendship to slant my writing. My conclusions and views do not necessarily agree with his.]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Street Versus Seat Democracy

Stand or sit?

On my way via foot to catch the public hearing at 5 PM, I noticed that the usual gang of anti-war activists was out in force near City Hall, standing on both sides of the street. With time to spare I snapped a few shots of the protest that is held every Thursday afternoon.

While the activists took a stand outside, other citizens sat in the Plattsburgh Common Council chambers, waiting to address other issues besides the war, local concerns. Unless someone got up to speak from the podium, everyone remained in a spot in a neat row, listening. Occasionally someone would stay seated and comment. But no banners or flags were hung, no signs were held high, no voices were raised.

The street demonstration and the public hearing made interesting bookends. Both involve citizens pushing for positive action to be taken. But in two different ways: informal versus formal. Outside: car horns honked loudly in solidarity. Inside: polite applause indicated agreement.

Sometimes the energy on the street moves into City Hall. And that can result in real action.

Students Exhibit Creativity

The North Country Cultural Center for the Arts kicked off its latest exhibition with a reception on March 1st. On display are 2D and 3D creations by students, grades 7 thought 12, hailing from various schools in the area. The 2008 High School Juried Art Exhibition runs until March 22nd. Call NCCCA at 563-1604 for more information.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Comments & Impressions

Comments ranging from heartfelt to dumb were heard at Thursday night’s Common Council event.

Before the regular meeting, a public hearing was held regarding proposed changes in the Plattsburgh City Code to address problems with student housing and behavior (see previous post). Combat Zone (Center City) residents and landlords offered feedback.

Louis LeVaque, a well-spoken older gentleman, needed a bit of time to get up and take the podium. (I’ve had days like that with my bad back.) He didn’t let the extra effort stop him from sharing what was on his mind.

Louis talked about the need for more enforcement, for more tickets issued, in his neighborhood. He also mentioned how property values were being affected by the presence of sub-standard student housing and chronic problems such as noise and vandalism. He didn’t want to see the value of his house drop by thousands of dollars.

One can imagine his situation. He’s worked hard, bought a home, but now his neighborhood is going to crap. How can he enjoy his retirement? He favored the proposed code changes.

On the opposing side, landlord Ed Champagne said that the college was passing on the “onus” of uncontrolled students to the property owners. Why should landlords be responsible for changes proposed by Plattsburgh State?

Later on someone corrected this misstatement. The Combat Zone residents, not the college, initiated the formation of the Plattsburgh City–College Commission. The college wasn’t trying to dump a problem on the landlords.

I think Champagne should sit in a meeting of the Plattsburgh Campus and Community Partnership, a coalition of projects that actively deal with community problems. If anything, the city has been shirking its responsibility by not making some landlords accountable for the CZ decay. That’s put the “onus” on the residents, not the absentee landlords.

Champagne was against the provision requiring landlords to register all tenants, an effort to keep track of how many students were living in a building. He made a funnee: “How are we landlords going to keep track of our tenants? DNA testing?”

Ha, ha. Champagne ran for a city councilor position in the last election. He lost. So his helpful humor isn’t part of the Common Council mix.

Plattsburgh dodged a bullet.

During the regular council meeting, Councilor James Calnon suggested a review of the proposals with municipal department heads.

Uh, didn’t the City-College Commission already do that?

Calnon indicated another committee was needed to re-review the Commission’s report. (Like they say, a platypus is an eagle designed by a committee.)

Mayor Donald Kasprzak said he wanted to act on the proposals as soon as possible. He was hearing too many complaints from his constituents.

It reminded me of former President Bill Clinton’s quote: “I feel your pain.” Apparently if the Mayor keeps feeling the pain, it will lead to more action.

So keep those calls, emails, and letters pouring in. One key to the situation might be pain sharing.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It’s Different When It’s Your Neighborhood

A Plattsburgh resident expresses her concerns about deteriorating neighborhoods to the Plattsburgh Common Council.

Want action? It depends. Where do you live or work?

Deteriorating buildings. Noise, vandalism, litter. A minority of students and landlords causing a majority of problems. Center City (AKA Combat Zone) residents keep pushing for solutions.

They spoke this evening at the Common Council meeting in favor of two proposed items. The suggested changes in the City Code were the result of work done by the Plattsburgh City-College Commission.

One item, a new noise ordinance, passed. But the second one, a redefinition of what constitutes a functional family, ran into a snag. Part of this proposal would limit the number of unrelated people living in an apartment unit from 4 to 3.

Most Combat Zone residents who took to the podium were in favor of the 4 to 3 change.

But Councilor James Calnon wanted an amendment added to the family redefinition item to keep the number at 4. Calnon said that there might be legal challenges, civil rights issues raised, if that limit was dropped. His amendment was approved by the other councilors.

Then Councilor Timothy Carpenter said that since the item had been changed by Calnon’s amendment, there should be more time to “digest” the altered item. So the item was tabled for another week for proper digestion. (Burp.)

Meanwhile, entropy waits for no man. The Combat Zone keeps rotting away.

Another item that stirred up controversy was authorizing the Mayor to execute a Memorandum of Agreement with Champlain Valley Janitorial Services commencing on March 6.

There had been a part-time janitor for City Hall but he had quit. Mayor Kasprzak explained a Public Works employee had been on loan to keep the city’s HQ clean but that pulled the employee from his regular duties. So the Mayor had hired someone on a part-time basis through CV Janitorial Services. He noted that the building smelled better.

With my background in janitorial engineering, I knew what the Mayor meant. You gotta change those scented urinal cakes in a timely fashion or the battle is lost.

But a union representative said that the position should be a unionized city job. Denise Nephew of AFSCME said that if the item passed, she would file a grievance. The item passed.

So it seems that with City Hall, if you’re a citizen living in a neighborhood going to shit, you have to wait. The city has to proceed cautiously, wary of legal challenges.

But when City Hall’s own neighborhood is faced with substandard conditions, then action is quick, decisive, even with the threat of a legal action.

Maybe if City Hall was infested from top to bottom with noise, vandalism, and litter, the Combat Zone would see speedier relief.

That’s Much Better

Finally. This crosswalk ramp has been cleared so that school kids don’t have to walk in the street.

Also noted: the “Mount Everest” that was blocking the sidewalk on Court Street has disappeared.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Orange You Glad…

…that they keep downtown so clean? (Three days and counting on this apeeling mess.)

Like they say: if life hands you a lemon, look at the bright side and make lemonade.

A Very Accessible Crosswalk Button

Even with my long reach, I can’t use this button.

Entropy As Last Year’s Halloween Pumpkin

Image taken 3/3/08. Elm Street, Plattsburgh, NY.